HC Deb 03 November 1980 vol 991 cc953-5
23. Mr. Dormand

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will now introduce proposals for changing the hours of sitting of the House.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

No, Sir. The Procedure Committee recommended against any radical reorganisation of our hours of sitting. I believe that the debate last year when the House considered this section of the Committee's report showed that this view reflected the general opinion of the House.

Mr. Dormand

Will the right hon. Gentleman make some firm recommendation himself and not keep shuffling the matter on to the Procedure Committee, although I take the point that that Committee must have a view? Does he consider that we conduct our affairs in the most efficient way? Why does he think that every other Parliament in the Western world is able to conduct its affairs in normal working hours?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The Procedure Committee has considered this matter, and I gave the House an opportunity to put into operation the principal change that was recommended, which was about Friday morning sittings, and the House passed that. As long as there is a substantial body of hon. Members, who are opposed, for example, to morning sittings. I do not think that it is possible for them to be enforced against hon. Members' wishes.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Will my right hon. Friend look again at the question of Friday morning sittings as they affect Government statements? Does he agree that the experiment of interrupting the proceedings at 11 o'clock for Government statements is not satisfactory either to Ministers or to hon. Members, and that it would be better if the House met at 10 o'clock, if 9.30 be too early for Ministers, when perhaps statements could be made more easily?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The purpose of interrupting the proceedings at 11 o'clock is not for the convenience of Ministers. It is for the convenience of hon. Members, especially with Private Notice Questions, and so on, so that they may have time. I shall consider my hon. and learned Friend's suggestion, but I doubt whether it would be satisfactory. I think that it would create more problems than it would solve.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Will the Leader of the House look at the Sessional arrangements? Does he realise that the House rose this year on 8 August and that children of Scottish Members, including my own, went back to school on 13 August? Does he agree that for those hon. Members who are away from home for most of the year it is at least desirable that the House should so arrange its business that they manage to see their children?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Yes. I have some sympathy with what the hon. Gentleman says. It is partly in my hands, I agree. I hope that we shall have a lighter legislative Session. But it is also in the hands of hon. Members. I hope that they will facilitate the legislation that the Government produce.